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It's official! After four months of delays, twelve betas, and two RCs, Firefox 4 has gone final. But after all that, does this fox still have teeth? Can Internet Explorer 9 retain the WBGP title, or will it become the shortest-lived champion to date?
Last week, Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 became the Web Browser Grand Prix (WBGP) champion, just one day before Firefox 4 was released (you can download it right here). Although testing began the day of Internet Explorer 9's launch (we have that one available for download, too), the timing of our publication ended up being quite unfortunate. Scores of angry Firefox 4 fans stormed the comments and forums, torches and pitchforks in hand. They demanded an update with Firefox 4 RC2 included. They offered up a leaked final copy for testing. They demanded the story be taken down and IE9 stripped of its title. They accused us of blasphemy and called for my head.
Since our update to the WBGP3's first page was no use against the angry horde, let's clear this up right here on the front page of WBGP4.
We only test final products in the WBGP. If we let one pre-release build in, we have to let them all in. Fair for one is fair for all, right? When that happens, things get weird. No one wants to be measured purely for speed against Chrome Canary. It may shut itself down whenever it pleases, but damn it's fast. Or remember when the IE9 platform preview came out? No discernible method to interact with the application in any way, but hey, look at those benchmark scores! Officially-distributed stable code is our line in the sand. We're calling a winner at the end of this, and you just don't compare development builds to final products in that setting. You just don't.
That phony final copy of Firefox 4 was a perfect example of why. We ran it through the WBGP3 suite on the WBGP3 test installation before wiping the drive for WBGP4. We hoped that wasn't indicative of the final build, and Mozilla confirmed it wasn't.
Now that Mozilla also has a major refresh on the scene, it's already time for Microsoft to defend its title. But this article isn't simply a rematch, a do-over of WBGP3. No, this truly is WBGP4. And that means an update to our suite of benchmarks. New contender Firefox 4 brings with it the ability to crack open two brand new areas of testing: HTML5 hardware acceleration and WebGL. Before Firefox 4 went final, only Google Chrome could take advantage of WebGL, making comparison impossible. Likewise, WBGP3 champion Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 was the only stable Web browser to utilize HTML5 hardware acceleration. Today, Mozilla gets to take them both on.
Since the publication of WBGP3, Chrome 10 has also received some minor updates (we're using 10.0.648.204 for our testing here), and we've introduced a couple of other new benchmarks as well. But before we get to the testing, let's take a look at what Mozilla has been up to these past few months with a featurette on Firefox 4.